A recap of the 2013 Horizon Report on Emerging Technologies in Higher Ed with a few personal observations
Higher Education Marketing

A recap of the 2013 Horizon Report on Emerging Technologies in Higher Ed with a few personal observations

Date posted: February 25, 2013

The 2013 edition of the Horizon Report has been released and can be downloaded from here.

I personally love this report. It is my favourite way to look into the future of technology in higher ed along with the experts and ponder the implications. More precisely it describes the emerging technologies and trends that their panel of experts expect will have a big impact on higher education over the next five years. Over the ten years that it has been published it has been pretty accurate in seeing the future of ed tech, and even when off the mark, extremely informative about the application of these new technologies by early adopters and technology champions. ( My summary of the 2012 report can be found here.)

The research behind the NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition is jointly conducted by the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), an EDUCAUSE Program and is funded by a grant from Hewlett Packard.

Below, I ‘ve summarized the main points of the report and added a few personal observations on their impact on the business of higher ed. These points are mine, and not to be confused with those of the Horizon Report (which are in italics).

The 2013 Horizon Report suggests that the six technologies to watch are:

In the near term – next 12 months,
1) MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) and
2) tablet computing will both receive widespread adoption in higher ed

In the mid term – next 2-3 years,
3) Games and gamification
4) Learning analytics

In the far- term horizon,
5) 3D printing
6) Wearable technology

MOOCs are a fascinating example of a technology that all the hype will tell you is crashing down the doors of higher ed. Coursera, edX, and Udacity, the three major players in the MOOC space, have been expanding rapidly, offering free open courses to the global masses. These rising stars of higher ed have seen a few setbacks recently with some well advertised stumbles but to be fair they still hold great promise as the technology that will redefine higher ed. The biggest challenge for these companies, and MOOCs in general, remains to be to find a business model that will sustain them. In the short term, or until this business finds it’s legs, higher ed marketers might do well to consider the role of the MOOC in marketing their institutions. Engaging new students in a free, online course experience with their schools is an obvious gateway to the possibility of full-time enrollment in the future. Of course the jury is still out on if these students, once conditioned to free, will be prepared to revert to becoming full-time or even part-time paying customers.

Here at HEM we spend a lot of time in the world of analytics and as a result have had a special interest in tracking the emergence of learning analytics in higher ed. Given the complicated nature of any kind of analytics, it is not a surprise that learning analytics are gradually entering the world of higher ed through enterprise level software like student information systems and learning management systems. I am very curious to see if the serious adoption of learning analytics in higher ed follows a similar trajectory as the adoption of web analytics, that being, slow and steady, rather the like the rapid emergence of the MOOC. My money is on slow, in fact I’d bet slower that the 2-3 year horizon this report suggests.

Based on an extensive review of current articles, interviews, papers, and new research by the Horizon Report advisory board, key trends effecting teaching and learning are:

1) Openness, (i.e. open content, open data, and open resources), is becoming a value.
2) MOOCs are being widely explored.
3) Real jobs demand skills more likely acquired from informal learning experiences than in university.
4) There is increasing interest in using new sources of data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance improvement.
5) The role of teachers continues to change dramatically due the vast resources available to students via the internet.
6) Educational paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models.

Most institutions are well into the shift of resources to online learning, providing some very interesting new challenges to their marketing and recruitment managers. Recruitment of students into online programs requires a very different approach than what has been used traditionally to attract full or even part time students. Online education is only going to increase in its importance to your institution, regardless of whether it is fee-based or open (MOOC) based, so master the ropes of online marketing now to position yourself for success in the future.

The key challenges faced by higher education institutions in adopting new technology are:

1) Faculty training does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
2) The emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching outpace sufficient and scalable modes of assessment.
3) Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.
4) The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
5) New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education.
6) Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research.

Many of these challenges are not new to higher ed, in fact they have been factors for many years. Technology has always been a main catalyst for change in the rather slow moving and slow to change culture and environment of higher ed. The piece that is new is the “new models of education bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models.”

As a result the daily challenge to higher ed marketers continues to increase in complexity. Just when you thought you had figured out how to market your traditional programs online, now you have to prepare to market a new kind of educational “product”, with a completely different business model. As they say, “ May you live in interesting times.”

I’d love to hear your reactions to this year’s Horizon Report. What predictions will you be most impacted by, good or bad. Do you agree with the priorities and time-lines? We look forward to hearing from you.